As keen as dogs usually are to eat anything and everything and share in whatever is on offer, it can come as a surprise to dog owners to find out that dogs only have around a sixth of the taste buds that people do. Due to this, the main part of dogs’ enjoyment of food comes down to their keen sense of smell.
Dogs are capable of detecting sweet, salty, bitter and sour tastes, but with much less acuity than people can! So, if you have ever wondered why your dog appears to find something rather plain or even horrible-smelling palatable, but turns their nose up at something that you would find delicious, this article will help to expand on the range of dog’s tasting abilities, and why they like certain things.
While dogs in the wild supplement their food intake with plant matter where necessary, over 80% of the natural canine diet consists of meat. They even have specially attuned taste receptors in their mouths that are triggered by different types of meats, which will likely send them wild for some very specific foodstuffs!
Raw, uncooked meat and bones are more than likely to send your dog into a frenzy, as are any particularly pungent or fragrant meat products such as tripe or organ meat. While most dogs will happily accept a cooked meat treat, they will get much more excited for something raw, responding on an instinctive level to the smell of the meat itself, rather that the cooking or charring of it.
Many commercial dog treats are meat based or meat flavoured, but if your dog is particularly picky, they might not find these overly appealing, as while they might smell meaty to us, they’re just not hitting the spot for your dog!
It might seem odd to find out that your dog has a sweet tooth and hankers after sugary treats such as candy or cake, but nevertheless, most dogs are as keen as kids to get to the sweet stuff! In the wild, dogs would supplement their diets with foraged fruits and berries, all of which are rich in fructose, a natural plant-based sugar. This provided dogs with an additional boost of energy when they needed it, and also, helped to develop their taste for sugary things that triggered the sweetness receptors of their taste buds.
You should, however, avoid giving your dog sweets, cake, or anything containing refined sugar, and watch their sugar intake as a whole.
If you own a cat as well as a dog, or ever take your dog to visit a friend with a cat, you are probably familiar with the sight of your dog going a bit loopy to get a taste of the kitty chow. There are a huge number of reasons for this; the novelty value for one, of eating something that smells or tastes different, and the fact that some dogs will never miss the opportunity to supplement their meals!
Cat food is similar in texture to dog food, and like dogs, cats do not have a particularly great sense of taste, so cat food is designed to be highly aromatic to provide an appealing meal to the cat in question. This means that many dogs are apt to try out cat food, and as it is rich in fat and protein, they are likely to find it delicious once they get a taste for it too!
It is important to keep your dog from snacking on cat food, however, as while it might look a lot like dog food, cats are very different and their diet is not designed to meet the need of dogs. Cat food tends to be richer in protein than dog food, higher in fat, and contain trace elements that dogs do not need, such as taurine. Eating cat food will at worst give your dog a case of the runs, but it is not suitable food for dogs, and will not meet their nutritional requirements. Plus, the cat won’t be very happy either if their bowl is invaded by a dog!
While some foods will simply make your dog turn their nose up and not be interested in eating, there are a whole range of things that to us are rather disgusting, but that tick all of the right boxes for your dog.
Off cuts of horse and cow hooves will send the average dog wild as a chew treat, and these are actually perfectly fine to give to your dog, who will chew a whole range of nutrients out of them. At the other end of the scale, rabbit poop and sometimes, the faeces of other vegetarian animals are often popular with dogs, much to the horror of their owners! While eating poop of this type is not ideal, the faeces of vegetarian animals is actually rich in B vitamins, which your dog may be lacking if they particularly seek them out.